Earlier this month Thomas Nelson released Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. A good deal of fanfare, (Facebook, Twitter, Blogosphere, etc.) preceded and accompanied it’s release. When books come to us this way, I find that many are disappointing, but that is not the case with this book — quite the opposite.
The title serves as a clarion call to the Church to make a course correction that provides an alternative path that is neither left or right, but forward with Christ. From the introduction to conclusion, “Christ must be ‘the ‘North Star’ or ‘Southern Cross’ in our exploration to know Him. The point: the church is off course and nothing will bring her back on course, but “an inward revelation of Christ to our hearts by the Holy Spirit — “a progressive unveiling of the person who stands behind the sacred page and is the occupation of all things.” (p.19)
Throughout Sweet and Viola constantly and consistently make their call to course correction by providing their readers with fresh and needed correctives to our understanding of the person of Christ.
The serves as reminder that Christ is our chief occupation in both life and ministry. Too often the Church occupies itself with secondary issues and doctrines (evangelism, missional ministry, social justice, praise and worship), relegating Christ to a mere side issue, or sub-point. The reader is reminded in a fresh and culturally significant way that the route back is once again placing Christ as the end all and be all of all things. The corrective is always found in the person of Christ – first and foremost.
Here is some of what I highlighted reading through this book:
- God doesn’t lead you through phases or steps. He draws you to Himself in continuous motion. p.69
- In all the religions and philosophies of the world, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder with having a relationship with that founder. But not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus Himself. Christ is still alive, and He embodies His teachings. This is what separates Him from every great teacher and moral philosopher in history. p.82
- Our problem is this: We have even created a narcissistic form of Christianity, in which “conversion” is less a turning toward to Christ than a turning turning toward success or fame or fortune. Narcissus never had it so good than in best-seller Christianity, which has become self-centeredness wrapped up as “spirituality,” which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything. p.100
- The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to principles of justice or complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success; not wealth or health or anything else. Only love. p.117
If you are one who is dissatisfied with the present anemic condition of the western church, whether you are conservative or liberal, armenian or calvinist, reformed or pentecostal, whatever your theological ilk; this book is latent with Christological insight that all should agree on. It serves as a timely corrective that will provide for the church a view and understanding of Christ that will aid it in an authentic embodiment of the Good News before the present postmodern world. Reading this book will engage many with a Christ they never knew and for others it will renew the “first love” they lost somewhere along the way.
If I were fashioning a curriculum for a “Christianity 101” class, this book would be at the top of my required reading list, it is extremely relevant, valuable, prophetic and timely.